How Many Chances Does The Offense Get To Reach A First Down In Football?

First Down Chances

In football, the offense has four chances to travel 10 yards and get a first down. Those chances have names: the first one is called a first down, the second a second down, the third a third down, and the fourth and last a fourth down. All four together are called the down cycle.

A down begins once the ball is snapped and goes until the play is called dead. After that, a new down is recorded, and a new play at the next stage of the down cycle will begin. Every time the offense fails to achieve a first down, a down is recorded. A team’s choice of plays is based on which stage of a down cycle the team is at and how many yards they need to travel to get to a first down.

What Happens if You Don’t Get a First Down?

If the offense fails to travel the 10 yards and gets to the fourth down, it either has to turn the ball over to the other team by punting or attempt a field goal. In some cases, teams choose to use the fourth down to try a passing or running play again, but that comes at the risk of giving the opponent a better field position if they don’t travel the needed distance in that fourth and last chance.